Minnesota Twins series preview: Twins ignite old rivalry with trip to Milwaukee

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 05: Christian Yelich #22 of the Milwaukee Brewers rounds third after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on August 5, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 05: Christian Yelich #22 of the Milwaukee Brewers rounds third after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on August 5, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Twins are heading in the wrong direction and the task will not get easier as they head to Miller Park for a series with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Prior to the 1998 season, the Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers were familiar foes battling in the American League East division. With the Twins picking up a pair of World Series titles in 1987 and 1991, and the Brewers struggling outside of an American League pennant in 1982, Minnesota usually had the upper hand with their neighbors to the east.

While the rivalry was never all that intense, things really got relaxed when the Brewers moved to the National League during that 1998 season. As part of interleague play, the two teams occasionally saw each other, but it was more of an excuse for the two fan bases to meet up, have a couple of beers and attempt to eat a hot dog, bratwurst, Italian sausage and Polish sausage in the same game (A feat I like to call “eating for the sausage cycle.”)

With both teams resurrected in the past couple of seasons, this week’s two-game series at Miller Park has a lot more meaning for both teams. The Twins would like to put some room between themselves and the Cleveland Indians in the American League Central while the Brewers sit behind the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.

As both teams have something to play for, it should be a short but important series for both team’s postseason hopes.

About the Twins

To put things mildly, the Twins are coming off a tough week. After being crushed in the final two games of a series against the Atlanta Braves, Minnesota came one stop sign and a tenth-inning implosion away from splitting a four-game set with the Indians. Now tied with Cleveland atop the AL Central, the Twins need to find a way to get back on the winning track.

The issue is that the Twins are still without some of their key players. Nelson Cruz was placed on the 10-day IL with a ruptured wrist tendon and Byron Buxton is still nursing a left shoulder subluxation that won’t be further evaluated until later this week. With both catalysts out of the lineup, it’s been on the rest of the Twins to step up, which hasn’t really happened.

On top of that, the Twins starting rotation has been a trainwreck in the past week. Before Jake Odorizzi threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Tribe on Saturday night, the Twins had allowed 26 earned runs in their previous 20 2/3 innings. For a team that didn’t pull the trigger on a move to get a starting pitcher at the trade deadline, this has been brutal and also requires someone to step up and stop the bleeding.

In other words, with 44 games remaining, someone on the Twins needs to step up and that could happen in Milwaukee.

About the Brewers

While the Twins didn’t make a move at the trade deadline, the Brewers made several as they try to keep pace in the NL Central race. With Jordan Lyles and Drew Pomeranz bolstering the rotation, Milwaukee has nudged themselves within 2 1/2 games of the division lead but find themselves playing .500 baseball as of late.

The good news for the Brewers is that they’ve received some really good starting pitching as of late. The rotation which also includes Gio Gonzalez, Chase Anderson and Adrian Houser, have allowed six earned runs in their past 28 2/3 innings. The bad news is they haven’t gotten a whole lot of offense to back those outings up despite having Christian Yelich (who will return Tuesday after missing four games with a bad back) and Ryan Braun in their lineup.

The bratwurst and cheese lined arteries of the Milwaukee faithful have been put to the test lately because of this as JR Radcliffe of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel pointed out that 19 of their past 26 wins have come by two runs or less and three of those have come by three runs (with one game going to extra innings).

Milwaukee is a dangerous team, especially in their home ballpark, but if their recent play is any indication, this should be a tightly contested series.

Pitching Probables

Tuesday 7:10 p.m. CT: Martin Perez (8-5, 4.80 ERA) vs. Chase Anderson (5-2, 3.70 ERA)

Having Perez on the mound used to be a fun time for the Twins as he raced out to a 5-0 start and a 2.83 ERA. Since then, Perez has been brutal in his past 15 starts going 3-5 with an ERA of 5.80. As bad as that is, it somehow has gotten worse recently as Perez has allowed opposing hitters to record an OPS of 1.038 while allowing a 6.67 ERA and an 0-2 record in his last five starts.

One would imagine a bad start against the Brewers would be the last straw, but a bigger question would be who else would the Twins turn to if they have to remove Perez from the rotation?

While Perez has been struggling, Anderson has been hitting his stride allowing two or fewer runs in each of his past nine starts leading to a 2.63 ERA. The right-hander will need to go deep as rumor has it that the Brewers will look to have a bullpen game on Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday 1:10 p.m. CT: Kyle Gibson (11-5, 4.24 ERA) vs. TBD

Gibson will look to rebound from one of his “Bad Kyle” starts on Aug. 8, when he issued a career-high six walks in a loss to the Indians. The Twins, of course, will hope for “Good Kyle” who attacks the strike zone and is aggressive forcing the hitters to adapt to him. If he continues to nibble, this Milwaukee offense could come to life in a hurry.

Next. Luis Arraez continues to dominate. dark

For the Brewers, they’ll look to turn to a bullpen that has struggled recently. Milwaukee ranks 17th in MLB with a bullpen ERA of 4.54 and with Matt Albers, Zach Davies and Claudio Vargas all having their issues, this could be a time for the Twins’ potent bats to return to their home-run hitting ways.